Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has signed on to an open letter attacking Russia's record on democracy and political freedom. The letter's 75 signatories include former prime ministers of soviet bloc countries like Estonia, as well as advocates of democracy from Europe and the United States, including current and former lawmakers. The open letter is to be published in the UK's Financial Times newspaper on May 9, to coincide with ceremonies in Moscow marking the end of the Second World War. The signatories accuse Russia of betraying the principles behind the victory against Nazi Germany 60 years ago, and say Russia's plan to mark the anniversary in Moscow makes "a mockery" of the struggle for freedom.
In sports news, Czech ice hockey star forward Jaromir Jagr is set to play in the Czech-Slovak match on Saturday evening, just a few days after breaking his little finger in an earlier game at the World Championships in Vienna. The Czech team beat Switzerland, Germany and Kazakhstan in the first group stage. Saturday's match against the Slovaks will be their first real test.
President Vaclav Klaus's office has rejected a call from the chairman
of the Lower House of Parliament, Lubomir Zaoralek, for a public debate
on the European Union Constitution. The president's spokesman said Mr
Klaus was already leading the debate, and indeed had been the first
person to raise the issue. President Klaus has been described as the
only head of state in the European Union to be publicly opposed to the
EU Constitution, and was recently involved in a dispute over the issue
with two leading members of the European Parliament.
Meanwhile, the government European affairs information committee has said a planned campaign to persuade Czechs to vote Yes to the Constitution will cost slightly less than originally planned. However, it is still not clear whether ratification will be decided by a referendum or by Parliament.
Czech ice hockey star Jaromir Jagr says he is ready to play against Slovakia, just a few days after breaking his little finger in an earlier game at the World Championships in Vienna. The Czech team have reached the last 16 in the competition, after beating Switzerland, Germany and Kazakhstan in the first group stage. Saturday's match against the Slovaks will be their first real test.
A poll to decide who is the "Greatest Ever Czech" reached its penultimate phase on Thursday evening, when the top ten names were revealed by Czech Television. The only living person in the top ten is former president Vaclav Havel. Among the others are first Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, writers Karel Capek and Bozena Nemcova, educator Jan Amos Komensky, composer Antonin Dvorak and actor Jan Werich. The list also includes the important historical figures of Jan Hus, Jan Zizka and Charles IV. Czechs have just over a month to vote on the "Greatest Ever Czech" from this shortlist.
Jaroslav Basta has been chosen by the Social Democrats to be first deputy foreign minister. The announcement came after a group of rebel Social Democrat MPs insisted on the party securing the post as a counterweight to Christian Democrat Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, who they say is too pro-American. Mr Svoboda has already said he would not be opposed to the appointment of Mr Basta.
The Czech Republic is preparing for a weekend of events to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, with most memorials being held in Prague and the west Bohemian town of Pilsen. On Saturday a reenactment of a bloody battle for control of Czech Radio is being held on Prague's Vinohradska Street. Sunday will see a host of memorial events, including the first military parade on the city's Letna plain since the fall of communism.
The Czech foreign trade balance posted a 6 billion crown surplus in March, the equivalent of about $230 million dollars. It was the best result for the month since 1993, and confirms a long-term favourable trend, said the Minister of Industry and Trade. Car and machinery exports accounted for the bulk of the surplus. The Czech currency strengthened on the news, to 23.12 crowns to the US dollar.
The ruling Social Democrats have slipped further in the opinion polls despite replacing the prime minister, a poll by the CVVM agency showed on Thursday. The poll was conducted between April 18 and April 25, during which time former regional development minister Jiri Paroubek replaced Stanislav Gross as prime minister, amid allegations of unethical behaviour surrounding Mr Gross' personal finances and his wife's business dealings. The new CVVM poll puts the Social Democrats at 10.5 percent support compared with 14.5 percent support one month ago. The centre-right Civic Democrats retain a commanding lead of 31 percent support, while the largely unreformed Communist party polled at 16.5 percent. The Christian Democrats have the support of 8.5 percent of those polled, enough to cross the 5 percent threshold necessary for parliamentary representation.
The documentary Death in Gaza by British cameraman James Miller, who was killed during the film's shooting in 2003, has received the top prize at a human rights film festival in the Prague. A total of 120 films were shown since April 27 at this year's seventh edition of the festival, organised by the Czech charity People in Need. The jury at Prague's One World 2005 human rights documentary film festival said it appreciated the film's "professional approach", its "humanism" and its "dynamic action". The film documents the Israeli army's destruction of hundreds of homes in the Palestinian territories.
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